Roisin Ingle on . . . the man at the door

 

Big news from my kitchen: I’ve started to squint while looking at the instructions on the side of a stock cube. I know it’s a very small box but it shouldn’t take 20 minutes to locate the instructions and another five to decipher them. I’m a busy person. I can’t be standing squinting for the guts of half an hour trying find out how much boiling water must be added to powdered seasoning. I have Netflix needs to meet.

On a different but, I’m willing to concede, mildly related note I was in a bar the other night and as I sat there sipping my tumbler of wine three things struck me.
1. What’s wrong putting wine in a flipping wine glass? 2. It is unbearably loud in here. 3. I wonder who’s on Vincent Browne tonight.

Both the above scenarios are by way of introducing a third scenario which has started to be a feature of my existence as I enjoy increasing numbers of years on this planet: I’ve started to dread the doorbell. You see I know exactly who it’s going to be when the doorbell rings. There are no pleasant surprises. Only young men with hand-held machines and laminated identity tags enquiring after my utilities.

The other night I was strong-arming the children to bed when the doorbell rang. My instinct was to ignore it but against my better judgment I abandoned all immediate priorities and went to the door.

I was not at all surprised to see a young man with a laminate and a cheerful expression. Behind him stood another young man. I deduced he was learning the doorbell-
ringing ropes from the first young man.

“Hello,” I said to the first young man in a tone that I hope inferred: “Whatever you’re selling bucko, it’d better be good.”

“Hello,” he beamed. And then he launched into his patter which went something like this: “I was having a chat with your neighbour Michael Collins down in number 32 and we were just saying what a lovely evening it is and that we should organise a game of football in Fairview Park. You can be in goal if you like”.

I don’t know if it was the stock cube business or the screams I could hear from the bedroom or the fact that I just remembered I hadn’t taped Conor Pope’s exit from Celebrity MasterChef but this opening gambit enraged me. A quiet rage, but a rage nonetheless.

I told him a thing or three. And I actually used numbers to illustrate: “Number one, nothing you have just said tells me anything about who you are or why you are ringing my doorbell. Number two, I don’t know this Michael Collins from Adam Clayton. Number three, I hate football and have no interested in playing it, as a centre forward or as a goalie.”

I wasn’t finished. “Look, I know you’ve probably been trained to engage in a bit of non-utility related banter to ease the way into the actual sales pitch. And I know you can’t ask closed questions like, ‘are you interested in changing your provider?’ because that gives me, the potential customer, the chance to say ‘no’ and shut the door. But this other tactic you are employing is so not going to fly with people like me who have just got back from work and are trying to get their children to bed and can’t read the instructions on their stock cubes. That’s just a bit of friendly advice that probably wasn’t in your training manual: you’re very welcome.”

To be fair he wasn’t one bit phased. The doorbell-ringer-in-training behind him meanwhile was in convulsions. The first young man spoke again. “It’s just you looked like someone with a good sense of humour,” he said. The quiet rage flared again. “Are you saying I don’t have a sense of humour? I have a BRILLIANT sense of humour I’ll have you know. Don’t I? Amn’t I hilarious normally?”

I called back inside the house to the inhabitants for verification. Nobody answered which wasn’t ideal. Then we all stood there at the door, fake-smiling at each other.

“Let’s start again,” I said after a while.

So we did. We shook hands and then he gave me his patter all about how joining up with provider X would save me Y amount. That’s when I informed him I was already with provider X. He looked down disconsolate at the little machine in his hand. “But it says here you’re not.”

“Well, I am. I most definitely am”. So, now I’m doing two things: 1. Disconnecting the doorbell. 2. Buying a magnifying glass.


roisin@irishtimes.com

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